The peak of the fighting between Arabs and the African Masalit tribe was Sunday in the town of Kreinik, 80 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Genena. The clashes eventually reached Genena where authorities declared a nightly curfew in the main market, according to the U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence which grew out of the killing of two Arab people Thursday in Kreinik by unknown assailants.
He called for the acceleration of the deployment of local joint security keeping forces as per a 2020 peace deal between Sudan's government and a rebel alliance in war-wrecked Darfur region.
At least 168 people were killed, and 89 others were wounded on Sunday alone, according to the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur. Thursday-Friday clashes left 8 dead and 16 wounded, it said.
Darfur24 news website quoted Naser al-Zein, director of Kreinik municipality, as saying that the dead included at least 17 children and 27 women.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said government buildings, a police station and Kreinik's sole hospital attacked and burned down in Sunday's hours-long clashes.
The fighting forced the U.N. food agency to suspend food distributions planned this week, affecting at least 62,850 displaced people in the town and two nearby villages, OCHA said.
The Genena Teaching Hospital, where wounded people were being treated, was also attacked Sunday with shooting took place inside the facility including the emergency department, the Doctors Without Borders charity said.
One hospital worker was killed, and healthcare workers were evacuated, said the group which is known by its French acronym MSF.
Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin said they solidified security in the province and deployed troops to separate the warring parties.
Tensions between Arab and Masalit communities in Kreinik date back to December when a property dispute at a local market triggered clashes that killed at least 88 people.
The fighting has come at a critical time for Sudan, which has plunged into chaos since a military takeover last year. The takeover upended the country's transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
The clashes raise questions over whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been wracked by years of civil war. In 2020, the U.N. Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission there.